They may have had impact at one time and even today, depending on how they are presented could have potential to influence or create a behavioural response but… even then this is unlikely.

When was the last time you wrote down a URL from a poster or pulled your phone out to scan a QR code? Today? this week? this year? never?

Before I continue on this topic one must ask, what is it I am trying to do with this poster? There are a range of outcomes you could be aiming to achieve through a poster; some examples are:

  • Information provision
  • Promotion of a product/service or deadline
  • Promotion of an event

Unpacking these examples, each of these items has a goal. You want to tell someone something so they do or do not do , you want them to buy a producct or service, you want them to come along to an event (in many cases, buy a ticket to come to an event).

Scenario:

Problem: A local university needs to increase enrolments in a program for the next semester.

Goal: Maintain previous years enrolment numbers and increase enrolments by x%

Audience: All students

Audience notes: >40% students study remotely

Traditional activity: posters around campus, postcards placed in key traffic areas and system generated email to student university email addresses within a couple of weeks of the program start date.

  • Pros: posters and postcards are an accepted method amongst senior managers (as often they don’t know the alternative and they can see the physical items making them believe students are also seeing them), emails can be sent by operational staff
  • Cons: can’t track effectiveness of posters or postcards, cost of design and printing can be significant, not environmentally friendly to use paper or paper products, non-communication trained staff creating content and sending emails (lack of understanding regarding subject lines, content and acceptable results via analytics). Without a detailed project/campaign plan the promotion may be in isolation to other programs and communications, it may be too late in the student lifecycle to get the required enrolments, it may also not target the the appropriate audience. Posters and hard copy collateral do not reach students who study off campus.

Alternative activty: Development of a campaign plan, including a range of communication and promotional tactics. Within this plan are specific timelines, and budget/resource management. The plan will include targeted social media advertising, search engine marketing, an email campaign utilising both university email address and personal email addresses, text message and digital screens across campus.

  • Pros: The development of a project/campaign plan ensures all stakeholders are aware of the campaign, understand the timelines and recieve full transparency regarding spend – allowing return on investment analysis to be undertaken. Budgets are set within the campaign plan and can be reduced throughout the campaign period. Social media and search engine advertising is based on data and evidence and allows the university to target specific cohorts directly through a range of tracking tools. Online campaigns can be adjusted instantly depending on the results produced. Text messaging has been proven to stimulate behaviour at deadlines.
  • Cons: Requires staff with knowledge and skills in regards to campaign management, content creation and capacity to analyse data to make informed decisions. These techniques are not widely understood by university management and thus may take some persuasion before financial investment is made. Senior management may also be nervous that they are not ‘seeing’ any promotion, this is because they may not be within the targeted cohort.

I acknowledge a bias towards online marketing, it is not because I don’t appreciate posters from an artistic perspective, I absolutely do, however I am predisposed to achieve the target and if i can utilise a systematic approach to achieving results this is the route I will take every time.

So next time you have a program to launch spend 15 minutes to determine what it is you are trying to achieve. Document it and create a plan, even this will ensure an improved result.

Tip: Do a very small run of cheap postcards to satisfy management and other internal stakeholders and allocate majority of spend to targeted online campaigns.